Saturday, July 9, 2011


I love bittersweet chocolate! I'm not a big chocoholic, but I do love me some Hershey's Special Dark candy bars. When I do take candy in my grooming lunchbox, it's either M&Ms Peanut, Butterfinger Crisp, or Hershey's Special Dark bars.

A couple of summers back, I discovered a perfect dark chocolate snack at Trader Joe's. These were little graham cracker squares dipped in dark chocolate. The small, one inch by one inch grahams with the dark chocolate coat were perfect, nearly guilt-free snacks...until Trader Joe's didn't stock them anymore. Looking for a back-up plan, I found another favorite snack was also missing in action.

These yummies were orange or raspberry jellies dipped in dark chocolate. I inquired of the TJ's employee stocking the TJ's sweets: "Where's the Rasperry and Orange Chocolate Logs?" He replied that the latest price increase was more than TJ's could tolerate but "you could go to the website and comment" The chocolate covered jellies came back to TJ's about six months later...the grahams are still MIA.

As much as I miss those dark chocolate graham cracker snacks, I have found a suitable replacement. This spring, Trader Joe's introduced their Trader Joe's branded Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups!

Smaller but taller than Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, these are sublimely delicious...but I still lament the loss of the Dark Chocolate Mini Grahams.

I have been lamenting another loss today...I guess it's a bittersweet moment...I intentionally did not view the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis this morning. The last manned spaceflight by NASA. I view it as an ending with a whimper not a bang. Not a happy day for a kid raised on the Space Race, and the Moon Shots. I'll refrain from going all political in this space.

To quote Forrest Gump: "and that's all I have to say about that".

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tryin' to Chill

Well, our heat wave is starting to break a little. Here in the Inland Valley our high for the day was down 4°F from yesterday. I opened up the Ancestral Digs about an hour earlier than the previous four evenings, and there was a noticeable "Delta Breeze" wafting through the house, helping it cool off nicely...I re-aimed the fans, and settled in to watch my sports.

I was able to get in the Tour de France and the SF Giants on the tube, but my Fantasy Team backslid a little...Team CorduroyPlanet finished the day back in 34th Place. It was a tough day in France for all concerned. Very narrow rural roads and on and off torrents of cold, pouring rain squalls.

American Levi Leipheimer hit the pavement in the last ten miles of the stage, and while no worse for wear, he did lose a minute to the other leaders. The Big Viking Thor Hushovd retained le maillot jaune, finishing third in the bunch sprint finish.

The rain played havoc with Alberto Contador's bike, and he had to change bikes twice and chase back to the front yet again. It looks like Lady Luck isn't in Contador's corner so far this week.

The Giants won in far less dramatic fashion than Wednesday night. Players coming back from early season injury are finding their stride. Tonight's victory was the Giants' 51st win against 39 losses so far...better than last season.

Sadly, I had to watch yet another Giant go down with injury. John Hall, a utility player acquired last month by the team to fill several injury-induced holes in the infield, took one for the team, though hardly intentionally.

Tonight Hall was playing second base, and got spiked as he tagged out the runner. Instant replay showed the runner to be safe, so it was a blown call by the second base umpire that went the Giants' way.

One of the things that make baseball baseball, is the Human Element. Humans "fit" baseball perfectly, and baseball returns the favor by fitting humans perfectly.  For me, one of baseball's greatest charms is it's human-ness for lack of a more precise word. 90ft between bases, nine men on a team, nine innings of three is a perfectly scaled latticework for humans to build their personal baseball worlds on.

After the play at second, Hall immediately reached for his leg, and walked off the field into the dugout, and down the stairs to the locker room.  TV clearly showed the holes in his pant leg where the runner's spikes found purchase.

During the Post-Game wrap-up, it was reported that the cuts on Hall's leg went "to the bone". Feeling my own leg, there's not much meat over the tibia, so getting to the bone probably isn't that uncommon on the baseball diamond. Hall got some stitches I'm sure, and he'll have to sit out a few games until he's healed up, so the hits just keep on coming for the Giants.

I'm staying up late tonight so I can stream LIVE Free Practice One from Silverstone in the British Midlands. It's the British Grand Prix weekend, and as always in F1, there are many fascinating questions to be answered on the track.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Fourth of July Follies Wrap

Well that was fast! The videos of the Hot Dog Eating Contest are up on YouTube now. I found this one Tuesday evening.

 The World's Wackiest Orator, George Shea delivers his Überhype in the first 60 seconds of the video. I always enjoy Shea's over-the-top style and I usually get more than a chuckle listening to the silver toungued huckster...and I mean huckster in the most reverent and American way.

I haven't bothered to watch the rest. The linked video is Part 1 of many you'll find on YouTube should you wish to watch the train wreck spectacle. I'm only interested in hearing Shea pontificate in his inimitable style. As a matter of fact, I didn't even edit the HTML to make the embedded video fit this space...I only need to hear Shea's spiel, I don't care to watch any of the other 14 minutes.

Save the full sized video to your own collection here if you like.

Tuesday, I was up before 0500, and stayed up and watched Stage 4 for an hour or so before I drifted back to sleep. It was literally 90°F in the shade Monday evening, and by the time I got the house cooled off enough to fall asleep it was past 1:30AM Once again, I got up in time to catch the final 5 kilometers and the uphill sprint finish.

90° in the shade at 3:30PM July 4, 2011 It began to cool off at 8:30PM
Fantasy Team CorduroyPlanet suffered what you call a "reversal of fortune" and I'm back in 37th Place. All in all, it wasn't as unfortunate as a "reversal of fortune" in the Hot Dog can look it's in the last paragraph under Rules.

The rest of my morning vanished while I did some writing and editing, did some printing, and designed and printed some DVD Labels. Before I knew it, it was noon and it was a little hotter than Monday. I postponed my errands, and read most of the day. On a constructive note, I refined Wednesday's shopping lists...COSTCO, fabric store, health food store, electronics store, and the Big Box Office Supply Store. No wonder I'm tired...jeez...tonight I got the house cooled a couple of hours early, and I'm still up at 2:01AM!

Post Nap-Time Wednesday
I got out and after my errands well before 11AM, I was in and out of COSTCO in under 15 minutes. I changed up things a little and hit the Mexican produce market instead of the health food store...the produce market had the celery seeds for Mom's potato salad. I maneuvered through the Fabric Store in under 10 minutes, but struck out at Staples, Smart & Final, and at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Nothing that can't fix, however...

I was back at the Ancestral Digs by 1PM, and sawing logs by 2:30. I woke after 3PM and took a look around the 'net to monitor the High Sierra thunderstorm situation.

Truckee is dry for now, but the radar images and Reno's AFD caution that the fat lady hasn't performed her aria just yet. Reno's forecasters think today will be the last of it, thank goodness. Looking at the latest satellite loops, you can clearly see the monsoonal nature of the moisture training in from the desert southwest.

Here in the Inland Valley, the local NWS forecasters promise a break in our heat wave by the weekend, a welcome development as it's 90°F at 4PM for a third straight day...

Wednesday's TdF Stage 5
Though I managed to get to sleep by 1AM Tuesday night, a big improvement over Monday night, I still couldn't manage to stay awake for all of the LIVE broadcast. Again I drifted off in under 25 minutes and woke up for the mid-stage sprint, and again for the final 10K. I'll watch the prime time package before tonight's Giants game for the rest of the story. Team CorduroyPlanet didn't recover all of Tuesday's losses, but we did get back up to 29th Place.

Stepping back a little to take the bird's eye overview, I guess I can declare this spring's BodyClock Reset to be a success. It's been two months and six days, and the lion's share is complete...just an adjustment of my new bed time to a little earlier and I'll be 100%. I'm going to need a little help from Mother Nature, though...I'm determined not to fall victim to Air Conditioning's Siren Song 

Five days in, the first week of the Tour is shaking out to be a typical nervous race dominated by the sprinters. There have been crashes, like all TdF Opening Weeks, but only two crash victims have had to abandon. Fortunately, none of the injuries are life threatening. Defending Champion Alberto Contador was on the ground once Wednesday, while Norwegian Super-Sprinter Thor Hushovd confounded the experts by hanging on to the maillot jaune despite the hilltop finish of Stage 4.

The God Of Thunder was in front for Stage 5's bunch sprint finish Wednesday, and retains the yellow jersey for a third day. Team HTC-Highroad/CorduroyPlanet sprinter Mark Cavendish won the day, with America's 4th of July winner, Team Garmin-Cervélo/CorduroyPlanet's Tyler Farrar right there to finish with the same time. There was no shake-up of the overall standings, and the Heads of State are all still in contention. You can't win the TdF in the first week, but you can lose it if you're not careful...and lucky.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Independence Day Follies

As it should be, it's been hotter than blazes here in the Inland Valley over the holiday weekend.

Sunday I was down at the Farmer's Market before 0930...the mercury was already uphill of 80°F and rising fast. I grabbed my heirloom tomatoes and fled to the relative cool of the Ancestral Digs in time to bid Sister K a safe trip home into the Big Valley Inferno.

I made Bakesale Betty's Fried Chicken Sandwiches for brunch and settled in to view the Giants vs Detroit Tigers game. Just watching the broadcast from scorching hot Detroit made me feel the heat. Alas, the Tigers won, spoiling the Giants' sweep.

Earlier Sunday morning my alarm roused me at 0500 to watch the Team Time Trial LIVE from France. Damn if the heat hasn't been keeping me up too late to stay awake at 0-dark-hundred! I fell back to sleep before Phil and Paul could even introduce the course. I woke up in time to see the last three teams stop the clock. My favorite team this season, Garmin-Cervélo, one of four American teams on the Tour this year won the day! My fantasy team, TeamCorduroyPlanet rose from the ashes of the cellar up a couple of steps to 37th overall.

Garmin-Cervélo's Dave Zabriskie added the Captain America helmet to his National Time Trial Champion kit.
I watched the Primetime replay and it was wonderful, colorful and productive. Defending champion Alberto Contador lost a few more seconds to my pick Andy Schleck in the overall or GC (General Classification) as Garmin-Cervélo enjoyed their first TdF Stage Win. 

Fourth of July...from the ridiculous to the sublime...


Sunday I failed to keep the eyes open to view the TdF LIVE again...and again I woke up in time to watch the sprint finish LIVE...

Team CorduroyPlanet's (read Team Garmin-Cervélo's) sprinter Tyler Farrar became the first American to win a stage of the TdF on the Fourth of July! It's a Big Deal for the French riders to win on Bastille Day, le Quatorze Juillet (the 14th of July), that celebrates the Storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution, so we Americans can have dreams along similar lines, too.

After the Tour broadcast ended, I tuned in the quintessential 4th of July Event on TV...

                   The 96th Annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs 
                         International  Hot Dog Eating Contest

Ladies and Gentlemen, now for the Most Famous Four Words in Sports...


Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Contest is Pure Americana meets the Ugly American, and I could care less who eats how many, how fast, where they ate 'em, or why they ate 'em. I'm down with Nathan's Contest because the contest Announcer and Chief Raconteur George Shea is an orating machine, and a National Treasure.

Shea was born with the "Gift of Gab" and honed his craft in Law School. Today when introducing the contestants, Shea said, almost in passing, this about today's winner Joey Chestnut: "His DNA is a blueprint for a Modern Archangel"

Unfortunately, ABC-TV (parent company of ESPN2, who broadcast the Hot Dog Contest) doesn't feature Mr Shea and his Over the Top Oratory, instead opting to have their motorsports motormouth, Paul Page yammer over the mostly disgusting video, drowning out the real phrase-smith's witticisms.

At least ESPN2's "Smartest Guys in the Live Truck" have the good sense to feature Shea's Eaters Introductions. Sometime after the holiday ends, Shea's Play-by-Play should show up on YouTube. Perhaps I should lobby the NHRA to resume drag racing on 4th of July Weekend so Paul Page will have somewhere to be besides Coney Island during the Hot Dog Eating Contest!

Every year I fire off an email full of impassioned constructive criticism to ESPN, and every year I'm treated to Paull Page droning out True Genius yet much for my being the Everyman.

Continuing in the less-than-sublime sports vein, I enjoyed the Giants vs San Diego Padres game from AT&T Park in spite of the Giants' loss. Pablo Sandoval hit a two run into homer McCovey Cove, only the 56th Splash Hit ever.

During the game, I installed my new garden thermometer on the redwood tree outside my bedroom here at the Ancestral Digs, and watched it rise instantly to 90°F. By the time it started to cool off, the results of today's Stage 3 were posted to my fantasy league. Team CorduroyPlanet rose again to 19th Place. Thanks to my sprinters Tyler Farrar and the "Manx Missile" Mark Cavendish. I expect to cover most of the sprint stages with these guys, the two best sprinters riding today.

Now I'll watch the Prime Time replay of Stage 3. Thanks VersusTV!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Begins, One Ends

From The Beginning
The 98th Tour de France began on the west coast of France Saturday, with a low tide processional ride across the Passage du Gois that connects France to Île de Noirmoutier.

In 1999 Le Tour actually was racing over this roadway that's only above water at low tide, when a big crash on the super-slick pavement split the field wide open. The Stage 2 crash separated several contenders by six minutes from the front of the race. That year Lance Armstrong's streak of good luck began, and he won his first of seven Tours de France.

Going back in history to 799AD, Île de Noirmoutier was the site of the first recorded invasion of the Vikings.

The Viking in today's race, Norway's reigning World Road Race Champion, Thor Hushovd finished third in the frantic uphill sprint at Mont des Alouettes. The last 20Km saw two crashes in the peloton that again split the contenders. Defending TdF Champion, Spaniard Alberto Contador was behind the crash caused by an inattentive spectator, and crossed the finished 1:20 behind the rest of the favorites.

Fans of Luxembourger, Andy Schleck saw this as a sort of delayed "Instant Karma" owing to Contador's taking advantage of Schleck's unfortunate chain drop on on the Port du Balès climb during Stage 15 in the Pyrenees during the 2010 Tour.

Now known as Chaingate, Schleck wearing the yellow leader's jersey, attacked Contador on the Port du Balès. As he accelerated away from the Spaniard, Schleck's chain dropped from his rear derailleur and jammed. Contador saw Schleck's mechanical trouble as he passed and began his counter attack in contravention of cycle racing's Gentleman's Agreement.

They say a True Champion doesn't take advantage of a mechanical, the Grand Tours must be settled mano a mano.

"The Spaniard took advantage to attack and went on to gain 39 seconds - exactly the amount of time that separated the two riders on the final podium in Paris.

 "I wouldn't have done that (attack)," Schleck said in an exclusive interview published in French newspaper L'Equipe on Thursday. "He said he didn't see it. But he looked like this [turning his head and looking over his shoulder - ed.] and then he attacked."

"A great champion doesn't do a thing like that. When Ullrich crashed into a ravine, Armstrong waited. When Armstrong crashed on the way to Luz-Ardiden (on stage 12 of the 2003 Tour), the other riders agreed to wait for him. That's what makes a champion. I was really very disappointed by his attitude that day." (From Cyclingnews' article here)

There will be ample opportunity for the two stars to settle it in the Pyrenees and the Alps this year.

When CorduroyPlanet publishes Sunday morning, I'll be up watching the LIVE coverage of Stage 2, the 23Km Team Time Trial. If you only watch one stage of Le tour this year, the Team Time Trial is the one to watch.

The Time Trial is known as "the race of truth"'s just the rider against the clock. There's nowhere to "get out of the wind", and it's the ultimate test of the rider's form and fitness. The Team Time Trial is the same thing, but all nine men race together as a team. The Team Time Trial illustrates the beautiful dichotomy of Pro Bicycle's an Individual Sport, but it's a Team Sport at the same time. The uninitiated can learn everything they need to know about Bicycle Racing at the Top Level by watching the TTT.

You can watch the full package coverage at noon PDT on NBC, and several times on cable network VERSUS 9AM, 1:30PM, 5PM, 6:30PM, 9PM, and 10:30PM

Aaa-and That's a Wrap
While I'm lazing in bed watching Le Tour LIVE, the last of the Diehard Skiers and Snowboarders will be getting ready to slide down the slopes for the last time in Season 2010/2011. Mammoth Mountain in the Southern Sierra, and four resorts in the Tahoe Sierra will turn their chairlifts through the Independence Day Weekend. It even made the news in Los Angeles.

I do miss running my BR350 Groomer...but not in Summertime Snow!